First responders: Bystanders instrumental when someone is struck by lightning

Published: July 29, 2021 6:13 PM EDT
Updated: July 30, 2021 9:00 AM EDT

Lightning struck five people on Southwest Florida beaches over the past few weeks. One of those victims, a 17-year-old boy, died from his injuries in the hospital. While strikes can be deadly, the emergency response after the initial hit can save a life.

First responders told us the first thing you should do is grab your phone and call 911 if you witness someone struck by lightning to get paramedics on their way.

Our trained rescuers then want to quickly get you and a possible victim under cover in case lightning strikes again.

The next step is to perform CPR on the victim until help arrives. When a life is on the line, every second counts.

Olaudah Parker knows that from personal experience. He had to think quick when his daughter, Elia, nearly drowned at their Naples community pool.

“If you just stand there, you get nothing,” Parker said. “But if you perform CPR is a chance that you can have your daughter back.”

Parker started to perform CPR on Elia and revived his baby girl before first responders made it to the scene.

“If you have to wait on the first responders to get to the scene, you’re going to be in trouble,” Parker said. “The best thing for the average person to do is to get 911 on the phone, immediately.”

That’s exactly what bystanders on Nerita Beach did when lightning struck a couple recently. The dispatcher walked bystanders through CPR.

Firefighter-Paramedic Arian Moore responded to the lightning strike that day. Moore says CPR is as easy as chest compressions to get blood and oxygen circulating.

“It’s the first thing in the chain of survival,” Moore explained. “That initial right off the bat CPR is a huge, huge thing that you were seeing more of these people walk out of the hospital instead of having detriments and things of that nature.”

“Bystanders really being heroes and willing to respond and rescue to somebody who has been struck by lightning is going to make a difference,” said Deputy Chief Kevin Barbot with Sanibel Fire & Rescue District.

Anyone interested in getting CPR certified, can call his or her local fire department. Many have free and low-cost classes.

You can also go through American Red Cross:

  • Training can give you the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency and save a life. A variety of online and in-person courses are available at
  • Download the free American Red Cross First Aid app ( for instant access on how to perform CPR, use and AED, control bleeding and other skills
  • Activate the Red Cross First Aid Skill for Alexa-enabled devices for instant access on what to do for a variety of first aid scenarios including performing CPR
  • First aid kits, severe bleeding kits and emergency preparedness items are available at